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23
Mar

Steelseries Rival 500 review


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Steelseries Rival 500

Buying a gaming mouse is a bit harder than it used to be. Do you go for a simple four button pro model with lightning-fast response times and super-high DPI sensors, or do you go for a more specialized MMO model with dozens of buttons? It’s a difficult choice, but don’t lose hope. You have more options than you think.

The Steelseries Rival 500 is a pro-grade mouse with MMO and MOBA-inspired design. It’s built to be lightweight, fast, and functional, capable of amplifying your performance no matter what game you’re playing. With 15 buttons and a best-in-class optical sensor, it seems like the Rival 500 would be up to the task, but let’s take a closer look and find out for sure.

Wide, but comfortable

The Rival 500 works hard to bridge the gap between MMO and eSports mice, and for the most part it succeeds, providing the best of both worlds in its intuitive design. But there’s still a question you’ll have to ask yourself to find out if this mouse is for you. Do you prefer a wide mouse, or a narrow mouse?

The additional buttons never feel like they’re in the way.

This is a very wide mouse. Your fingers rest comfortably within reach of all the Rival’s 15 buttons, but the body of the mouse will fill up your palm, and there isn’t a hollow on the right side of the mouse for your pinky to rest in.

Looking at the Logitech G403 Prodigy, or the Razer DeathAdder Elite, you can see the difference in overall body shape. The G403 and DeathAdder Elite are slender, and your thumb and pinky rest in contours on either side of the body. The Rival 500 has one contour for your thumb, flanked by buttons above and below, but your pinky and ring finger just drape over the right side of the mouse.

It’s a design that some users will love, and others will hate. If you generally prefer narrow mice, the Rival 500 is not for you. However, if you like a fuller mouse, something that fills your hand when you’re using it, the Rival’s design will be a pleasant surprise.

Feels worse than it looks

The soft-touch materials covering the Rival 500’s exterior feel chalky to the touch, but in use you don’t notice it too much. That said, the material has a bad habit of attracting smudges and oils. Even right out of the box, the powdery-feeling soft-touch material looks a little dirty, and it only gets worse with use.  Compared to the Razer DeathAdder Elite and Logitech G403, the Rival feels similar, but not quite as slick, and it’s a magnet for smudges.

Steelseries Rival 500
Bill Roberson/Digital Trends

What would a gaming mouse be without lights? The Steelseries Rival 500 has built-in RGB lighting in two lighting zones — the logo on the back of the mouse, and the accent lighting on the scroll wheel. Both zones can be changed independently, or set to cycle a pattern of colors using the Steelseries Engine software.

More: Shut out the noise and shut in the sound with best noise-canceling headphones

The lights are surprisingly bright, almost too bright, as the internal lighting can leak out between the mouse buttons and be a little overbearing in a dark room. Compared to the Razer DeathAdder Elite, the Rival 500’s LED lighting is much brighter, if a bit less vibrant.

Thoughtful design

Button placement is a big deal for gaming mice, and all too often a good mouse is spoiled by poor placement of extraneous buttons. Thankfully, the button placement on the Rival 500 is superb. Just placing your hand on it, in a resting position, your fingers are only on the two main buttons, while all the others are within reach with minor adjustments.Hitting the six thumb-side buttons is easy and doesn’t require any major repositioning — just a little shift up, down, left, or right. Accidentally hitting buttons is actually pretty hard.

There’s one other feature that the Rival 500 has that, um, rivals, might not: haptic feedback. This mouse has built-in vibration functionality, and you can customize vibration pattern and delay.

steelseries rival  reviewBill Roberson/Digital Trends

steelseries rival  reviewBill Roberson/Digital Trends

steelseries rival  reviewBill Roberson/Digital Trends

steelseries rival  reviewBill Roberson/Digital Trends

To be clear, it’s not typical gamepad-style vibration. You’re not going to feel the mouse buck every time you fire a gun in Overwatch. Instead, using the included Steelseries Engine software, you can set the vibration to fire every time one of your abilities goes off cooldown, by telling the software how long to wait after a certain trigger (like the press of a key) to fire the vibration.

It’s an interesting feature, and once you get it working it’s nice to have. But setting up the macros can take a bit of trial and error, and it’s more of an MMO feature than a MOBA or FPS feature. Using it in Heroes of the Storm or Overwatch, you’d have to set up different macros for different heroes, as everyone’s cooldowns are different.

Poorly executed

Before we start discussing build quality, it’s important to point out that the Steelseries Rival 500 is an $80 mouse. That’s not a bad price point, but for that price you can afford to be a little picky about overall quality.

While the design is innovative, the build quality leaves much to be desired.

Unfortuantely, the Steelseries Rival 500 doesn’t feel like an $80 mouse. The body feels empty and hollow, the plastic on the side-buttons has a troubling amount of flex, and the soft-touch material feels almost chalky.

The quality of the cord isn’t what you’d expect at this price point, either. When straightening out the kinks which naturally occur in any wired mouse’s cord, the sheath starts to wrinkle, and sharp kinks cause the internal wires to flex.

By comparison, the Logitech G403 has a solid, if standard, cord. Its simple plastic sheath is thick and durable, comparable to a standard smartphone charging cord in thickness and weight. Looking at the Steelseries Rival 500’s cord, it’s similar to the kind of cord you’d find on a cheap pair of earbuds.

Robust and full-featured

Steelseries manufactures a lot of different peripherals, and they all work well with its Steelseries Engine software. The Rival 500 is no exception. The attractive UI lays out the options and capabilities of the Rival 500 in simple, approachable terms, lighting options and macros are easily accessible.

Steelseries Rival 500 Compared To

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Razer Turret

steelseries rival  review evoluent verticalmouse c right

Evoluent VerticalMouse C Right

steelseries rival  review m optical gaming mouse

Cougar 450M gaming mouse

steelseries rival  review razer diamondback

Razer Diamondback (2015)

steelseries rival  review razer mamba

Razer Mamba (2015)

steelseries rival  review mionix castor

Mionix Castor

steelseries rival  review razer mamba tournament edition

Razer Mamba Tournament Edition

steelseries rival  review cougar m

Cougar 300M

steelseries rival  review cougar m

Cougar 550M

steelseries rival  review microsoft sculpt ergonomic keyboard press image

Microsoft Sculpt Ergonomic Desktop

steelseries rival  review genius gx gila gaming mouse press image

Genius Gila GX

steelseries rival  review mmo press

Logitech G600 MMO

steelseries rival  review roccat keyboard mouse

Roccat Isku and Kone+

steelseries rival  review apple magic trackpad

Apple Magic Trackpad

steelseries rival  review motormouse g

Motormouse 2.4G

The software functions well on Windows 10 and Mac OS, and if you sign in and save your profiles, your macros and custom lighting can follow you even if you from one device to another.

You can set up multiple profiles for each device, re-map every button, change the lighting, and change DPI settings all from within the Steelseries Engine software. It’s not as troublesome or finicky as the Razer Synapse platform can be, and it has a much more robust UI than you’ll typically find on Logitech’s offerings.

Warranty information

The Steelseries Rival 500 is covered by a one year warranty against manufacturer defects, which explicitly excludes coverage for damage caused by wear and tear.

Our Take

The Steelseries Rival 500 is a decent gaming mouse with some interesting and unique features, but it’s not without a few faults. While the overall design is innovative and intuitive, the build quality leaves much to be desired, and the cord doesn’t inspire confidence.

How long will it last?

As a dedicated wired mouse, the cord is of vital importance. Over its lifetime, it will be tugged on, creased, crushed — and we’re just not sure this cord would survive even half as long as the actual mouse would. It feels cheap, and even during early testing it started to display creases and fatigue.

The mouse itself feels solid, generally. The body doesn’t have much flex, banging it around on a desk doesn’t reveal any unusual rattling, but the side-fin buttons have a bit too much flex, and the soft-touch material coating the body is a magnet for oils.

The DT Accessory Pack

Razer DeathAdder Elite

$65.90

SteelSeries Arctis 5 Gaming Headset

$99.99

Razer BlackWidow Chroma Clicky Mechanical Gaming Keyboard

$135.56

Is there a better alternative?

Here’s the problem the Steelseries Rival 500 faces. The $80 gaming mouse market is fiercely competitive. Search Amazon for “gaming mouse,” set your price max at $80, and you’ll find dozens of competitors that would perform as well, or nearly as well, as the Rival 500.

The Razer Deathadder Elite offers similar functionality in a sleek and high-quality package, with a durable braided cord. The Logitech MX Master provides dozens of power-user options in an attractive, wireless, package. Cougar’s 550M is a solid all-rounder.

The Logitech G403 Prodigy offers better overall build quality with similar levels of functionality — though it doesn’t vibrate or have nearly as many buttons.

Should you buy it?

Only if you absolutely need a mouse with more than 10 buttons. The Steelseries Rival 500 features a superb button layout. Just be sure to invest in a good microfiber cloth to keep this thing clean, and treat the cord gingerly.

If you want a general gaming mouse, though, you’re better off with a competitor that offers more features, and better build quality, for the same price.

23
Mar

Never get lost inside Lowe’s again thanks to the In-Store Navigation app


Why it matters to you

Navigating the crowded aisles of a bustling Lowe’s can be difficult but augmented reality is here to help.

Can’t find your way around the stacks of two-by-fours and buckets of paint? Maybe Lowe’s new app can help. On Thursday, the home improvement mecca announced the launch of Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation app, heralded as “the first retail application of indoor mapping using augmented reality.” The app makes use of Google’s augmented reality technology Tango and is meant to make improving your home easier — at least, the part where you buy the materials you need.

Beginning in April, customers in Sunnyvale, California, and Lynwood, Washington stores will be able to use Tango-enabled smartphones to aid in their shopping process. Just decide what home improvement goods you need, search for them via the app, and locate them in the store by way of augmented reality. You can even keep tabs on all the products you may need to purchase in the app’s shopping list.

“Our research shows that helping make it easier for customers to find products in stores not only makes for a better shopping experience, it allows our associates to spend more time advising on home improvement projects,” said Kyle Nel, executive director of Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “With Lowe’s Vision: In-Store Navigation, we’ve created a more seamless experience using breakthrough technology so customers can save time shopping and focus more on their project.”

More: Shoppers can now use augmented reality to pick out furniture from Pottery Barn

Lowe’s new app actually features quite a bit of technology — Tango-enabled motion tracking, area learning, and depth perception come together to help you find your way through the labyrinth that can be a sprawling store, all using a mixed reality interface.

This actually isn’t the first app from Lowe’s to leverage Tango. Lowe’s Vision is also available for home improvement customers, and promises to behave as a “digital power tool,” allowing users to measure spaces and visualize how products might look in their homes.

23
Mar

Fossil announces a slate of new smartwatches at Baselworld 2017


Why it matters to you

Fossil’s new smartwatches are hip, stylish, thin, and pack Google’s Android Wear 2.0 operating system.

Fossil is no stranger to smartwatches. Last September, the American fashion brand that makes wearables for Armani, DKNY, Michael Kors, Kagen, Kate Spade, and others teamed up with chipmaker Qualcomm to launch the Fossil Q Wander and Fossil Q Marshall. And at this year’s Baselworld 2017 Conference in Switzerland, it debuted new faces to its existing lineup: The Q Accomplice, Q Activist, Q Venture, and Q Explorist.

“Almost two years after our initial launch, it is abundantly clear why we entered this market: As creatives, we felt there was a void of beautifully designed smartwatches where users could customize technology to their unique lifestyle,” Jill Elliot, Fossil’s chief creative officer, said in a press release. “We are aware that our customers want, more than just an exceptional product, they want an exceptional experience.”

New hybrid smartwatches

Not everyone wants to deal with the hassle of full-blown smartwatches. That’s where Fossil’s coin battery-powered hybrid line comes in: The Q Accomplice and Q Activist. They’re the slimmest of the company’s hybrid watches to date, and boast design details that “highlight the goal to create the most functionally beautiful and elevated hybrid smartwatches on the market.”

To that end, the Q Accomplice and Q Activist ship with three customizeable “pushers,” a new hybrid model that replaces the the previous generation’s mode selector. Those pushers can be programmed through the Fossil Q app to trigger a selfie, skip to the next music track in a playlist, set a unique ring tone to help find a missing phone, and more.

More: Fossil could be the only company that really gets wearables right in 2017

Just like Fossil’s other hybrid watches, The Q Accomplice and Q Activist they deliver email alerts, activity reminders, call notifications, and more with haptic vibration motors. And the Q Activist, which is based on Fossil’s Vintage 54, uniquely features a double layer dial that tracks calendar dates and a tachymeter scale for stopwatch functionality.

The Q Accomplice and Q Venture will launch in stores later this year for $155-$175.

Touchscreen watches

For watch wearers who want a more technological fashion statement, there’s the new Q Venture and Q Explorist pack. The former sports a 11.5mm case (compared to the Explorist’s 12.6mm — the thinnest of Fossil’s smartwatches to date.

The watches feature round touchscreens with improved brightness and clarity over last year’s models, and Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor paired with 4GB of memory.

They also ship running the latest version of Google’s smartwatch operating system, Android Wear 2.0, which is almost worth the price of admission alone. The new Android Wear lets affords greater watch face customization, a stand-alone app store that doesn’t require a phone, improved fitness tracking, and Google’s voice-activated, AI-powered Google Assistant. It’s a big deal.

More: Android Wear 2.0 update is rolling out to Fossil’s fashion-focused smartwatches

That’s not all the Q Venture and Q Explorist pack. Both come with freebies like a “vintage-arcade inspired” game, interchangeable straps, and a fast magnetic charger. They’ll go on sale in fall 2017 for $255 to $275.

Fossil has also announced new watches from Diesel, Emporio Armani, and Michael Kors. The details are forthcoming, but the company said they’ll launch later this year.

23
Mar

Samsung needs to make this ultracool, retro Gear S3 Pocket Watch right now


From the new Nokia 3310 to the return of a physical keyboard on the BlackBerry KeyOne, 2017 is already quite a year for retro tech; but Samsung has shown everyone how to do it properly with the Gear S3 Pocket Watch. Yes, it looked back several centuries for inspiration and came up with a spin-off Gear S3 watches that slip into a pocket in your waistcoat. It’s totally off-the-wall, roaringly good fun, and completely unique. When we say unique, we mean it. There’s only one of each model you see here in the world.

Samsung had them specially made for Baselworld 2017, and each has an inscription on the back panel to commemorate the occasion. The pair are a part of a larger concept collection based around the Gear S3, showing what could be possible in terms of design. Calling it a “reinterpretation of the classic pocket watch,” Samsung says the watches pay homage to watchmaking in the 16th century, when the pocket watch was common.

More: Read our review of the Samsung Gear S3

How does centuries old design mix with modern day technology? The body on each watch is large, solid, and heavy. One model is obviously based around the Gear S3 Frontier, with a black textured finish and a compass on the cover. Lift the cover up to reveal the Gear S3’s watch face, complete with a touchscreen and all the usual features. Flip the watch over and there’s even a heart rate monitor, although you may look a bit odd holding it against your wrist while running on the treadmill.

On the sides of the body are buttons to interact with the software, but the rotating bezel is missing. The second model has a much more ostentatious design, with an analog watch on the cover, and a flashy metal body. A bow to attach a strap is on both watches so the watch can be attached to your jacket or waistcoat, just like the original models, or adapted to work with a belt clip.

The pocket watches were joined by other Gear S3 concept watches, but were the only ones to deviate so drastically from the Gear S3’s look. They stood out in a refreshingly fun way. While not the most fashion forward version of the Gear S3, we can see lovers of retro tech (hipsters, we’re definitely looking in your direction), and those who adore tech curios being interesting in owning one. Samsung told us it’s not an official product at the moment, but there wasn’t a refusal to say it wouldn’t become one in the future.

More: Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

It’s interesting to note that the pocket watch has traditionally been suitable for both men and women, with designs for women being more enduring over time than those made for men — an approach that may appeal to the wearable industry today. Additionally, not everyone wants to wear a watch, smart or otherwise, so what about one that clips to your belt and slips in a pocket? Perhaps Samsung is about to kick-off a pocket watch revival, tech-style?

If so, would you buy one?

23
Mar

Corsair One launches today, starting at $1,799 for standard version, $2,299 for Pro edition


Why it matters to you

If the Corsair One gaming PC is a success, expect to see the company field more prebuilt systems alongside its range of components.

Corsair’s first prebuilt PC, which was initially unveiled in February 2017, is now shipping. The robust Corsair One is a powerful system aimed squarely at gamers that combines plenty of horsepower under the hood with a slick, understated case design.

The Corsair One adopts a custom shallow-depth mini tower form factor, according to a report from AnandTech. However, its major internal components use standard PC form factors, with the majority being either existing parts manufactured by Corsair or special editions designed specifically for this system.

More: Corsair targets PC gamers on a budget with its new compact mechanical keyboard

The standard version of the Corsair One boasts an Intel Core i7 7700 CPU, while the Corsair One Pro and its web-store-exclusive variant are fitted with an i7 7700K. Similarly, the standard model utilizes an air-cooled Nvidia GeForce GTX 1070, with the other versions opt for a water-cooled MSI GeForce GTX 1080.

All three models feature 16GB of DDR4-2400 RAM, and a Mini-ITX motherboard that utilizes the Z270 chipset. All versions of the system use a custom edition of the Corsair SF600 power supply unit. The standard edition comes with 240GB of solid state drive storage and a 1TB hard disk drive,  whereas the Pro model comes with a 480GB SSD and a 2TB HDD, and the web-exclusive variant boasts a 960GB SSD.

The case itself isn’t quite as flashy as other gamer-centric PCs out there. Its front face is accented with aqua blue lighting, which is single-color rather than RGB, so its hue can’t be changed by the user. However, it can be controlled via the Corsair Link application, or turned off entirely.

It seems that the Corsair One might not be particularly accommodating for users who plan to upgrade components down the line. The system has been assembled to use the available space as efficiently as possible, which makes it more difficult to work with than a standard build.

Corsair’s debut into prebuilt PCs carries a high price tag, with the standard model costing $1,799, the Pro version retailing for $2,199, and the Pro variant that’s exclusive to the company’s web store coming in at $2,299.

23
Mar

Your wearable could soon be your wallet, too, if Samsung gets its way


Why it matters to you

Mobile payments are growing increasingly popular, but what if you didn’t have to swipe your phone to pay and used your wrist instead?

Today’s wearables may be useful for tracking the number of steps you’ve taken or calories burned, but soon, they may be able to help you keep tabs on another kind of activity — your bank account. If Samsung has its way, mobile payments of the future may not come from your smartphone, but rather your connected watches, rings, and other wearables. According to a new report from The Verge, Samsung has plans to load connected devices with cash, turning them into prepaid credit cards. Because wouldn’t you just want to scan your wrist to check out?

Because these wearables would only have a fixed value (remember, they’re like prepaid credit cards), ostensibly, you won’t have to worry quite as much about your ring slipping off your finger or getting your smartwatch stolen. The thief wouldn’t be able to make large purchases, and you wouldn’t lose untold amounts of money. This new method of mobile payments could also make the act of giving cash as a gift a bit more tech-savvy or could be used by parents to give children set allowances.

More: Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 review

It seems as though Samsung would also place restrictions on when the money in the wearable could be used. For example, if the funds in a smart ring languished for months on end without seeing any activity, they could just disappear and return to the owner’s bank account.

While Samsung hasn’t revealed whether this concept is actually live on any devices quite yet, or what companion app would be necessary to make this payment system work, it seems that plans are underway to bring this dream into a reality. It will all be part of the company’s Contactless Companion Platform (CCP), which is being launched with two partners — mobile wallet developer called Smartlink and the payment terminal manufacturer Ingenico.

23
Mar

Power boost: EVGA has three GTX 1080 Ti graphics cards in the works


Why it matters to you

EVGA is one of the first third party’s to show off its non-reference GTX 1080 Ti designs, which could give you an idea of what to expect from others.

EVGA is planning to launch three graphics cards based on Nvidia’s GTX 1080 Ti flagship reference design, offering different levels of performance and cooling options. For those who really care about the look of their system’s internals too, each card comes with a unique lighting profile.

When Nvidia debuted its GTX 1080 Ti, it was immediately clear it was the new king of the graphics card pile. Its performance even beats the monstrously expensive GTX Titan X, which had many people surprised. The 1080 Ti Founders Edition is set to go on sale at the end of March and will no doubt draw a lot of interest from early adopters, but many people will be eagerly awaiting cards from third-party manufacturers, so EVGA is looking to generate some buzz before its release.

The first in its trio of new cards is the GTX 1080 Ti SC Black Edition, which raises clock speeds from the stock of 1,480/1,582 MHz on the core and memory respectively, to 1,556/1,670MHz. That nice bump to its clock speeds doesn’t do anything to the max power draw of 250w, though EVGA has installed its own dual-fan cooler on the design.

More: AMD’s Vega graphics chip appears on CompuBench as its launch nears

Moving up the range, the 1080 Ti SC2 maintains the same clock speeds, LED configurations and color (white), but where it differs is in its sensor suite. EVGA claims that it comes with nine different temperature sensors, which could make improving its cooling with aftermarket heatsinks or new directional fans, a little bit easier.

The big daddy of the new range is the GTX 1080 Ti FTW3, which ups the ante with an additional cooling fan and increases clock speeds a little further to 1,569/1,683 Mhz. It also has dual BIOS chips, which lets tweakers flash one with something experimental, without the fear of bricking the card and RGB lighting.

Power-wise, we’re told that its max draw has still yet to be determined, which suggest it’s more than the 250w standard for a GTX 1080 Ti. We do know, however, that it will require twin eight-pin connectors, so make sure your PSU is compatible before buying.

Unfortunately, right now we don’t know when you will be able to do so, though, as we don’t have any pricing or availability dates just yet. We will update this piece when they appear.

When they do release, each card will come with free copies of Rad Rogers and For Honor or Ghost Recon: Wildlands.

23
Mar

Michael Kors unveils Access line of smartwatches, new hybrid watches


Why it matters to you

Michael Kors’ new style-focused smartwatches are made especially for men or women, but its hybrid smartwatch takes a simpler approach.

Michael Kors, the luxury watch brand behind last year’s Access Bradshaw, announced a bunch of new smartwatches at the 2017 Baselworld conference in Switzerland this morning. And they’re worth getting excited about.

“It’s clear to me that the future of fashion will combine great design, personal style, and innovative technology, and the amazing response to Michael Kors Access has confirmed that that future is now,” the company said in a press release. “We’re thrilled to be able to offer this next generation of smartwatches and hybrids.”

Touchscreen smartwatches

Michael Kors has two new wearables in the pipeline: The Access Sofie, which is aimed at women, and the the Access Grayson, which targets men.

On a technical level, they’re fairly comparable. Both the Sofie and Grayson boast colorful AMOLED touchscreen displays, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon Wear 2100 processor, and Android Wear 2.0, the latest and greatest version of Google’s Android Wear operating system.

More: Michael Kors’ new smartwatches finally here, and they’re big

Android Wear 2.0 is sort of a big deal. It’s a major upgrade over the last generation of Google’s wearable operating system, featuring customizable watch faces, a stand-alone app store, improved fitness tracking, and Google’s super-smart digital Assistant.

It’s also one of the only similarities between the Sofie and Grayson.

The Sofie’s “sleek” and “feminine,” with a thin, lightweight case body, pavé, and full round display that comes in eight different color combinations.

Michael Kors describes the Grayson, in contrast, as a “luxury” watch with “sporty looks.” To that end, it sports a full-round dial with a rotating crown button that scrolls Android Wear’s lists and menus, and comes in four colors: Gold tone, stainless steel, and blue and black.

The Michael Kors Access smartwatches start at $350.

Hybrid smartwatches

For folks who prefer a simpler brand of smarwatch, there’s Michael Kors’ new hybrid wearables. The brand is introducing new analog watches that feature vibrating alerts, fitness and sleep tracking, and pusher buttons on the side that remotely trigger selfies and control music.

The men’s hybrid smartwatches will arrive “Holiday 2017,” and the women’s watches will land in fall. They start at $250.

Michael Kors Micro app

New watches aren’t the only thing Michael Kors announced. The watchmaker previewed the next major release of its app for smartphones, the Michael Kors Access Micro. In the coming weeks, it’ll gain My Social, a feature that’ll let users link to a personal Instagram account, select an image, apply filters to it, and set it as your smartwatch’s default face.

Michael Kors said that by the end of 2017, it will have released 15 new digital watch faces.

Finally, Michael Kors announced that it’s launching in new markets. Later this year, the brand’s watches will hit mainland China, Brazil, and others.

“When we launched, we stated that we would grow our wearable technology line by listening closely to our customers,” company chief and chairman John Idol said. “We’re pleased to be introducing exceptional new smartwatches and software that deliver on those fronts and others, and in more markets than ever.”

23
Mar

Restricting robocalls: The FCC votes to block more automated phone call spam


Why it matters to you

If the FCC’s ruling is successful, it could mean far fewer automated phone calls bugging you in the future.

Getting calls from telemarketers can be annoying in itself, but being called by an automated system can be even more irritating. To try and cut down on the number of nuisance calls being made across the country, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced a new plan to help phone companies block more of those sorts of calls, The Verge reports.

“Robocalls are the number one consumer complaint to the FCC from members of the American public,” FCC chairman Ajit Pai said. “We aim to take an important first step in ending the scourge of illegal robocalls.”

One of the difficulties with automated robot callers is that they often use spoofed numbers — that is, they appear to be calling from somewhere that they aren’t. To prevent this, the FCC’s rule will make it so phone providers can block numbers which couldn’t exist because they haven’t been assigned, or that existing subscribers have explicitly asked to not be spoofed. No doubt many companies will jump at the opportunity to protect their customer support numbers from being spoofed.

More: AT&T introduces Call Protect feature to automatically block fraud, spam calls

While the FCC’s new rule has been passed by a 3-0 vote, it will not go into effect just yet. The next step is to send it through a period of public consultation, where phone companies and consumers alike, can have their say on the changes it would make.

As part of the consultation, amendments can be suggested, with the FCC particularly looking for any solid solutions to nuisance calls coming from overseas, or ways that it can prevent legitimate calls from being blocked accidentally should this new rule come into effect.

A secondary vote on any and all amendments will be taken later in 2017.

23
Mar

Instagram is rolling out new safety features, will blur ‘sensitive content’


Why it matters to you

Last year, Instagram promised to cut down on cyberbullying and other problematic content on its platform. Now, it has new tools to help do that.

Instagram is continuing to act on a promise it made last year to keep the photo-editing and sharing app “a safe place for everyone.” On Thursday, the Facebook-owned social media platform announced the addition of a few new features that seek to help foster a safer, kinder community.

Sometime soon, Instagram plans to start blurring out “sensitive photos and videos” from your feed or a user’s profile. Moreover, the app has made two-factor authentication available to everyone, helping you keep your account safe. And finally, Instagram has created a resource page where you can learn how to protect yourself while enjoying your and your friends’ photos.

In terms of Instagram’s plans to blur certain content, the app hasn’t clarified what it will classify as “sensitive.” In a blog post, Instagram pointed out, “While these posts don’t violate our guidelines, someone in the community has reported them and our review team has confirmed they are sensitive.” The hope is that by placing a screen over these photos and videos, users won’t have any “surprising or unwanted experiences in the app.” That said, if your curiosity gets the best of you, all you need to do is tap the covered post, and you’ll be able to see it in all its … glory.

More: Now 1 million advertisers strong, in-app booking is coming to Instagram

As for two-factor authentication, users who elect to enable this security feature will have to provide an additional code from their smartphone every time they log in. To enable this extra layer of protection, tap the gear icon in Instagram, and toggle the Two-Factor Authentication option in order to switch it on.

Finally, Instagram’s new safety site promises more information on tools like account blocking, comment controls, and photo tagging. Users will also be able to access support services in their respective countries, and learn more about Instagram’s efforts in building a positive community, such as its upcoming Worldwide InstaMeet on March 25 and 26. The 15th such meetup of its kind, InstaMeet encourages folks from around the world to spread kindness by leaving a nice comment, liking an inspiring person, or sharing a supportive message. You can find an InstaMeet near you, and spread a little love this weekend.

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